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Japan, China, South Korea, ASEAN Urge North Korea to Talk

Foreign ministers from Japan, China, South Korea and Southeast Asia say they will press North Korea to resume negotiations on its nuclear weapons programs. The ministers hope a high-level security meeting Friday will break the stalemate with North Korea.

The annual meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers and their counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea turned into a flurry of diplomacy to get stalled talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons back on track.

The top diplomats of the six parties to the nuclear talks - two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China and Japan - are gathering for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' Regional Forum (ARF) on Friday.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, the host of the ASEAN foreign ministers' gathering this week in Kuala Lumpur, says the group is ready to facilitate any form of dialogue.

"I conveyed the ASEAN decision to the Chinese and to the [South] Koreans that ASEAN would like them, whatever they call the meeting if all the members of the six parties are here to get together," he said. "I think none of them have objected to that. We are going to convey this to the North Korean foreign minister when he arrives here."

Diplomats hope that during the regional forum, North Korea's foreign minister will meet informally with at least some of the other parties to the nuclear talks.

On Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur, the U.S. envoy to the nuclear talks, Christopher Hill, said there were no signs from Pyongyang that would happen. However, he said that the other five countries could meet, and they might bring in other nations to discuss the North Korea nuclear issue.

Pyongyang's missile launches on July 5 have added urgency to the resumption of the talks, which have stalled since last September. The United Nations Security Council condemned the launches and imposed weapons related sanctions on the Stalinist state.

In Kuala Lumpur, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said he discussed the issue with ASEAN leaders.

Aso says he will use Friday's regional forum to press North Korea to comply with the U.N. Security Council resolution.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing also called on all parties to make practical efforts to resume the negotiations.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will arrive Thursday to meet with the ASEAN foreign ministers and attend the regional forum.

Pyongyang has refused to return to the talks. It says it cannot return unless Washington lift sanctions imposed because of the North's alleged money laundering and drug trafficking activities.

North Korea's state media Wednesday quoted the defense minister as saying the country would carry out an "all-out, do or die resistance" against what he calls "hostile U.S. acts" and the "irresponsibility" of the Security Council.

In their meetings Wednesday, the 10 ASEAN foreign ministers and their counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea also discussed progress toward greater regional integration and trade liberalizations.